il Fornaio

il Fornaio's ad for a baker said it all,    "(work) in a challenging environment amongst a committed responsible for bigas, poolishs, organic levains, babys, chefs, sponges, brioches and more".

These people know their craft. I spent 3 hours with the bakers and another hour or so at a table sipping Cascade. The food is good on its own, but really it's the staff that create one of the best dining environments in Melbourne. St Kilda caters to all types and il Fornaio staff are fluid enough to relate to anyone. Which is probably what makes this place great. You feel worthy without being overly fussed over or patronised.

As the chefs pack up at night, a team of three to four bakers enter and claim the benches. The kitchen is now a bakery (Bakery 101, "bread is baked, not cooked"). The pace is fast, very fast. Bakers communicate like ants, via gesture and telepathy. Preparing first doughs is a group effort, then each baker manages either mixing, moulding or ovens. There's a Sour of some description in many of the doughs. Several varieties are 100% sourdough and use organic or biodynamic flour. As mentioned before on this site, it is pleasing to see bakers distinguishing between different sourdough methods.

il Fornaio makes the most of its Italian roots. Casalinga, Ciabatta, Focaccia, as well as the French influences of Batard and Eppi. What is different about il Fornaio is that they are sincere about recipes. In other words, they use a dough that is designed for a particular traditional loaf. Your batard is a batard, not a fluffy tinned white dough rolled into a stick. The result is an honestly textured bread with characteristic crust and aroma.

Eating is a spontaneous pleasure and should not be intellectualised at point of consumption. The best places give you the confidence to sit down and partake without using your nogin. il Fornaio is one of these places. Breathing is easier here. Asthmatics, throw away your Ventolins (actually I don't recommend that). Customers are not so much received, as embraced. These are gentle hugs from hard working folk who enjoy their work even after a hard nights clubbing. If there was ever a case for food tasting even better because of positive staff, this is it.

il Fornaio Gallery
61 3 9534 2922 / Fax: 61 3 9534 5255
2 Acland Street
St. Kilda
Artisan Baker Association Standards: 
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